Mike Peacock is currently expanding The Flying Pie Guy into online retail and event catering. He's turned his beloved Aussie meat pies into a thriving business. We asked Peacock what he's learned and what's his advice for entrepreneurs.
What would you tell someone who's thinking about starting a business?
Come to the table with drive and passion and don't ever take your eye off the ball. Be very focused and stay very focused on what you want to do. You will make mistakes. If you don't make mistakes, then something's wrong.
What were the most important skills you used or developed when you became an entrepreneur?
My business networking and sales skills. I was trying to connect with some big-time business people in New Jersey who own these corporate sites — trying to get permission to meet with them, have them sponsor us and get us into their corporate spaces or lunches.
There's no substitute for being passionate, knowing you have a good product and just wanting to get it out there. That's what drives me to make contacts. Thank God for the internet. With LinkedIn, you're able to find out so much about people as you network.
What's surprised you the most about becoming an entrepreneur?
When I left the corporate world, I knew starting a business was going to be hard work, but I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I have a saying: If you don't feel like quitting, then you're not working hard enough. There are days when I'm working 18 hours and am so tired that I don't go home. I'll sleep in a hotel room.
How do you maintain your resilience when things get hard?
Having connections to people who give you good advice and pick you up is crucial for any entrepreneur. When I struggle, I'm lucky enough to have a group of people that I can depend on. I have entrepreneur friends, two of them extremely successful, who are a phone call away. One of my life mentors was Randy Barrett, who passed away a few months ago. He was great to bounce ideas off and he owned an extremely successful company in the construction world. As busy as he was, I could always call him, and he would drop everything to help me.
My father and my friend Lars, they both give me the "pick me up when I'm down" part. My girlfriend Meghan is absolutely fantastic in helping me through the rough times. I've also been lucky enough to closely connect with some of the best people in the food truck world: They help me and don't charge me consulting fees or anything.
What's your advice for entrepreneurs about raising money?
I was lucky enough to have financing behind me in my personal assets. Entrepreneurs can also try GoFundMe, a really good crowdfunding platform that has funded me for different projects. Then there's family and friends. If they believe in you as much as you believe in you, they'll loan you money. Getting it through family and friends is better because you're not paying interest rates.
What tips might you offer entrepreneurs for coming up with the right product or service?
I did a tremendous amount of research on what sells and what doesn't, and then looked at the market saturation points. A lot of people have great product ideas, but the market is so saturated already. There's really not a lot of room to grow, unless you're going to make some huge product improvements. The internet is amazing because you can research anything and find out where you need to be and what you need to do to get there. You can actually read about people's mistakes and make sure not to repeat them.
Of course, you're allowed to make mistakes. I've always loved home cooking, for example, but when you're cooking the filling for 400 meat pies, you're doing big batch cooking, and it's a different world. Things can go wrong very quickly, as I've found out. Be ready to learn from your mistakes.